Monday, February 7, 2011


There are different definitions of entropy depending on the subject.  Maybe you're into thermodynamics.  Maybe social science thrills you.  Despite differences, all of the definitions come to the same point:  All things bound by time are progressing toward disorder.  Things will continue to progress toward disorder, always, unless energy is put in to prevent that disorder.  What's kinda funny is that the system experiencing entropy, like your kitchen, can only get cleaned by another system, like your body, and the energy you use to clean the kitchen creates what in your body?  Entropy!  So, entropy can only be abated in one place if it is enhanced in another place.  Perfect disorder.

It seems to me that everything starts falling apart the moment it begins to exist.  Well, maybe not that first moment, I'll reject reality for just that first moment and bask in the perfection, but the second moment, surely. 

Anyone who owns a new home knows that this is true.  The paint peels, the drains get clogged, the floors get dirty, and the popcorn ceiling gets apple cider all over it from a blender accident, and it simply won't come off.  One day, that home will be old, and it approaches that state a little bit in the span of every moment.

Anyone who has a child knows that this is true.  The beautiful little thing is born and a moment after birth is still in perfect union with his or her mother, and then that baby gets clipped from it's mother with a pair of blades.  It has to be done.  It's the nature of the Universe.  And after that, even if you dodge the puncture from the vaccine needle or decide not to circumcise (or have a girl ;-) ), your baby will still get rashes, bumps, and accidental scratches within days of birth.  One day, that baby will be an adult with wrinkles, and it happens so gradually that his or her mother will notice suddenly and gasp to herself, and feel her own age gaining.  Entropy of the cells.

Infinite gradations of chaos exist between perfection and collapse, between a shining empire and social anarchy.  My question is, where do we have to be on the scale to feel satisfied.  Pretty high, I find, pretty high.  Too high, for many of us.  My thought is that there isn't enough energy to keep things the way we want them.  We're trying to counteract the laws of the universe, which wants to fall apart, by all appearances, and we just can't do it.  We spend our lives trying, though.

Since entropy is a law of physics, and the only one, I think, that chooses a direction in time, forward, that is, then I think we have to think of entropy as progression.  When the bike's wheels rust up and the heater breaks and the cold is getting in, it doesn't feel much like progress.  If entropy is progression, then our goal is regression.  We want to regress back to the state of clean, warm, and fed, mostly.  We want to float in a safe, unaltered state where we feel comfortable and the house is clean.  When you gaze across the carpet and know that the vacuum must come out, you know who to blame:  Entropy.

Maybe we should stop trying to regress!  Is perpetual "the sameness" really what we want?  Look at that messy house and say, "Progress, baby, progress."  I figure, probably, that entropy is doing us a favor.  Without it, everything would be like that Twilight Zone episode where time stops and the bomb is hovering a foot above the ground.  Well, not the bomb part, but if things didn't progress on their own everything would be boring and stale.  And creepy.

Wikipedia said that "as the system becomes more complex, through access to energy, it becomes more susceptible to changes that may occur if one were to remove this source of energy."  I think this is the scientific way to say, "Mo money, mo problems."  (Not a great analogy, the way it's stated, but I couldn't help myself.)

Entropy teaches many things by example, including that things can change rapidly or slowly, and still maintain perfect balance.  Let's remember when we observe something needing to be done, that we have to search ourselves and see whether or not we have the equal energy inside to step into entropy's path and make a regression.  So many people victimize themselves by giving more than they have, and they win, on one front, because the rebalanced entropy results in a clean car, or some other desired outcome.  But we lose when we get frustrated, are brought to tears, or get physically ill, which happens more and more as our entropic societal systems get more complex.  Sometimes I think we should accept a higher rung on the entropy scale and a lower rung on the clean scale so we can keep our sanity and health.     

My perusal of and comments on the subject might seem a little dreary, but entropy results in more than decomposition.  An entropic increase in the surroundings of children help them learn and grow; as a child takes something apart, he learns how to manipulate it.  In an emergency, when things really fall apart, we get an opportunity to test our stress management skills and find out how capable and courageous we are.  In a classroom, where the teacher gives energy and books are opened and papers written upon, new ideas develop.  If you put energy out, one way or another, you'll get something back, and many times we get wonderful things.  And there is something beautiful about the infallible constancy of entropy.  (Of course my human brain finds pleasure in the part of a law of change that is unchanging.)  I glean a certain amount of comfort from truths that I can't do anything about.  No energy required.  Let it be.  Surrender. 

From Japan,

Dedicated to my inspiration, M.C.'s messy kitchen.


Anonymous said...


Megan said...

I wondered if this had something to do with my last post.... ;)

I think my issue is surrendering too much and then things are overly-consumed by entropy and I lack the energy to tackle it all. My better motto/resolution would just be to do "little by little." I think that's a Japanese concept -- kaizen, perhaps -- something about each step is a little success?

Anonymous said...

You have a birthday coming up!!Hope it is a Happy One! Miss you all a lot... I wish I could see all the pictures everyone else is getting.
Love ya lotts,
Aunt Annette